It’s a jungle in here, and not just because I’m playing that weird board game with the African drums.
The Jungle Book retells the classic story of a little boy’s life in the jungle and his encounters with a certain tiger. Is it a beautiful menagerie or an overgrown mess? Well, let’s take a look at the trailer and find out.
So who stars in this movie? Mowgli is played by newcomer Neel Sethi. He’s backed by an all-star cast, including Ben Kingsley of Iron Man 3 as Bagheera, Bill Murray of Ghostbusters as Baloo, Idris Elba of Pacific Rim as Shere Khan, Scarlett Johansson of Avengers: Age of Ultron as Kaa, and Christopher Walken of The Deer Hunter as King Louie.
The director is Jon Favreau of Iron Man fame. Expect the action to be ramped up from the original. That said, he’s usually quite good at storytelling, so hopefully this film will be strong in that area as well.
The trailer opens with Mowgli getting chased through the jungle by Bagheera and the wolf pack. If you have no idea what movie you’re watching, you’re probably afraid for this little boy’s life. But if you’ve ever seen The Jungle Book, you know he’s fine. Sure enough, Bagheera catches Mowgli and tells him, “If you can’t learn to run with the pack, one of these days you’ll be someone’s dinner.” And if you can’t take the heat, stay out of the jungle.
Shere Khan calls the animals together at the watering hole and says there’s “a strange odor” among the group. That was Bob the warthog. It happens. But no, Khan’s caught Mowgli’s scent, and since man is forbidden (but women are welcome anytime), he gets into a fight with Bagheera and chases Mowgli, losing him in a stampede that just got back from trampling Mufasa.
Bagheera tells him he’ll have to leave home and go find the Man Village, because “only man can protect you now.” Guys, it’s a whole wolf pack and a panther against one tiger. I think your odds are pretty good. But Mowgli heads off and runs into Kaa, who’s traded in his Winnie the Pooh voice for something more seductive, and King Louie, whose ears got ears. You might want to get that looked at, Lou; it sounds like a serious condition. “Only I can protect you,” he claims, even though we’ve already heard that only man can protect Mowgli. Then again, Louie’s always wanted to be a man, so maybe he’s onto something here.
Mowgli’s stare makes monkeys run and hide, he and Bagheera come across a pachyderm parade, and Baloo sings a very familiar song. The trailer shows off its cast, and Bagheera says Shere Khan “will stop at nothing until he has this boy.” “If anything happens to that kid, I’ll never forgive myself,” says Baloo as Mowgli brings fire to a tiger fight and Khan and Baloo square off. Mowgli plays a drum solo on Baloo’s chest and hugs Bagheera, monkeys invade and kidnap the kid, Kaa tries to swallow him up, and Mowgli and a wolf share a sweet moment. It’s really arbitrary which animals like this kid and which want him dead. Take King Louie, who Hulks out and chases Mowgli through the ruins, smashing the place up, and he’s not even a predator.
And the trailer ends with Mowgli helping Baloo prepare for hibernation. “Bears don’t hibernate in the jungle,” Bagheera says. “Not full hibernation, but I nap a lot,” Baloo argues. I love that they included this little moment; it proves that although this film might be more action-packed and epic in scope than the original, they’re still staying true to the humor and relationships of that film.
So based on the trailer, do I recommend the movie? Yes, yes I do, mostly for the reason I just mentioned. It’s taking the characters and tone of the original movie and expanding on it, updating it for a modern audience, which is what these films should do. If you’re a fan of the animated film or of Disney in general, you’ll probably love this one. I don’t know that I’ll see it in theaters, but I’ll definitely be checking it out on DVD.
That, at least, is a bare necessity.
The Jungle Book is owned by Walt Disney Pictures.